- Mark Zuckerberg laid out Facebook’s role in the ethnic cleansing of Myanmar’s Rohingya in an interview published on Monday with Vox.
- Zuckerberg said that both Buddhists and the Rohingya were being incited towards violence in messages sent on the website.
- He added that the social media network was able to stop some of it.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in an interview with Vox published on Monday that users in Mynamar used the website’s Messenger to incite violence and spread hate speech that led to reported “ethnic cleansing” of Rohingya Muslims.
“I remember, one Saturday morning, I got a phone call and we detected that people were trying to spread sensational messages through – it was Facebook Messenger in this case – to each side of the conflict, basically telling the Muslims, ‘Hey, there’s about to be an uprising of the Buddhists, so make sure that you are armed and go to this place.’ And then the same thing on the other side,” Zuckerberg told Vox’s Ezra Klein.
“So that’s the kind of thing where I think it is clear that people were trying to use our tools in order to incite real harm,” Zuckerberg said. “Now, in that case, our systems detect that that’s going on. We stop those messages from going through. But this is certainly something that we’re paying a lot of attention to.”
It’s unclear if Zuckerberg is saying that one group was pushing both the Buddhists and the Muslims towards violence, or if each side was engaging the other.
Since August 2017, Myanmar security forces have reportedly burned hundreds of Rohingya Muslim villages in the Rakhine state of the Buddhist-dominated country, raped and killed the residents, and sent about 700,000 fleeing to Bangladesh.
Facebook’s role in the ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya has been publicly known since at least March when UN investigators told the UN Human Rights Council how the social media network was being used as a vehicle to spread hate speech.
“Everything is done through Facebook in Myanmar,” UN Myanmar investigator Yanghee Lee said, adding that “the ultra-nationalist Buddhists have their own Facebooks and are really inciting a lot of violence and a lot of hatred against the Rohingya or other ethnic minorities … I’m afraid that Facebook has now turned into a beast, and not what it originally intended.”
Other Facebook executives have recently addressed the company’s role in the Myanmar crisis.
Adam Mosseri, Facebook’s vice president of product management, said in March that real-world violence could be one of the “most concerning and severe negative consequences of any platform.”
“Connecting the world isn’t always going to be a good thing,”Mosseri said on Slate’s technology podcast, If Then. “We’re trying to take the issue seriously, but we lose some sleep over this.”
Mosseri’s comments came in response to a question about UN investigators saying Facebook played a role in spreading hate speech in Myanmar.
“Is Facebook too big to manage its global scale in some of these other countries, the ones we don’t always talk about in this conversation, effectively?” Klein asked Zuckerberg during the Vox interview.
“So one of the things I think we need to get better at as we grow is becoming a more global company,” Zuckerberg responded. “We have offices all over the world, so we’re already quite global. But our headquarters is here in California and the vast majority of our community is not even in the US, and it’s a constant challenge to make sure that we’re putting due attention on all of the people in different parts of the community around the world.”
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